WILMINGTON, N.C. – In its final game on U.S. soil, the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team had four pitchers combine on a six-hit shutout and the offense plated six runs in the seventh inning as it defeated Japan, 7-0, to win the three-game International Friendship Series on Tuesday at Buck Hardee Field.
The U.S. previously beat Japan, 10-0, on Sunday before a 7-5 loss evened the series on Monday. The win improves Team USA’s record to 11-2-2 on the summer as it prepares to head to the Honkbal-Haarlem Baseball Week in the Netherlands, July 11-20.
“It is always big to win a series,” Team USA manager Dave Van Horn (Arkansas) said. “As college players, these kids are kind of programmed to win two out of three, so today was a big game for us, especially mentally since we don’t play again until Friday. It was big to win the series. Japan is a very good team that plays great defense, they can run and they just keep running arms out at you – left and right.
“I enjoy watching Japan play. They play hard, they are very aggressive, they handle the bat well and they really charge the ball well in the outfield. There are a lot of things that they do that I wish our team did a little bit better. We are going to play them two more times at a minimum over in the Netherlands so it’s good to get to know each other a little bit.
Tate Matheny (Missouri State) paced the U.S. offense with a 3-for-4, two-RBI performance. He drove in the game’s first and last runs with RBI singles in the fourth and seventh innings. Bryan Reynolds (Vanderbilt) also had a pair of RBIs in the contest, putting the game out of reach with a two-run double in the seventh.
A pair of Cal State Fullerton teammates – Justin Garza and Thomas Eshelman – led the way on the mound with Garza striking out four in five scoreless innings and Eshelman adding two more shutout stanzas. Tyler Jay (Illinois) and Ryan Burr (Arizona State) pitched the final two innings to close out the contest.
Matheny got the scoring started in the fourth when he laced a two-out RBI single up the middle to put the U.S. up 1-0. That is where the score would remain until Team USA pulled away in the seventh by scoring six runs on three hits, four walks and a hit batter.
The squad scored on an RBI double by Chris Okey (Clemson), a bases-loaded walk by DJ Stewart (Florida State), sac fly by Mark Mathias (Cal Poly), two-run double by Reynolds and an RBI single by Matheny.